ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari will be leaving for Moscow today, according to the Pakistani foreign office, amid efforts to finalize an oil deal between cash-strapped Pakistan and Russia.
This is Bhutto-Zardari maiden visit to Russia since becoming the foreign minister last year. It follows the visit of a Russian delegation to Islamabad to attend the 8th Pakistan-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) meetings in Islamabad earlier this month.
The Russian delegation signed multiple memoranda of understanding with Pakistan in different sectors and also conceptually agreed to provide cheap crude oil to the cash-strapped South Asian nation, which has been struggling for months to meet its energy needs amid a severe forex crunch.
In view of Pakistan’s deteriorating economic conditions and its forex reserves declining to a staggering $3.6 billion, Russia has also said it will allow Islamabad to pay for the energy imports in currencies of friendly countries.
“Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will undertake an official visit to Moscow at the invitation of Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov from 29-30 January 2023,” the Pakistani foreign office said in a statement on Saturday.
“The foreign minister will hold official talks with his Russian counterpart where the two sides would deliberate upon the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest.”
Over the decades, Pakistan-Russia ties have seen many ups and downs, mainly due to the Islamabad’s alliance with Washington. But in recent years, relations between the two states have warmed up as a countermeasure to proximity between India and the United States (US) on world issues.
On Friday, Reuters reported that Independent Russian oil refiner Forteinvest had clinched a deal that will see 1,000 tons of Russian gasoline sent to Pakistan by land for the first time.
The development came days after US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said “now is not the time” to bolster economic ties with Russia, as the West continues to find ways to curtail Moscow’s finances due to its invasion of Ukraine.
The Pakistani government, however, reiterated that the South Asian country would go ahead with the oil deal with Russia, adding that all deals will be finalized by March and oil will arrive in Pakistan by the end of April.